I’ll give you a bit of backstory to this letter I’ve just sent below as it will help you understand the level of annoyance I have with Persimmon.
Persimmon are a big house builder in the UK. Their chief exec earns £2 million pounds a year for building homes across the UK. They have shareholders they have to please as well as the many hundreds of thousands of customers who put faith in them delivering on their promises. Unfortunately you don’t need to search far on the www to find out just how poor they are at doing the latter which doesn’t seem to impact their ability to do the former.
As a customer of Persimmon me and my family have been to hell and back with these guys over the last 10 months and its still not over. If you’ve ever seen A Christmas Carol where Scrooge doesn’t seem to care that his staff are practically out on the streets over Christmas you’ll get a sense of the direction this is headed with Persimmon.
I’ll let you read the complaint (To which I’ve not yet had a reply)
Good Morning Mr Fairburn
You don’t know me and its doubtful my details or current situation have ever cropped up in conversation with your colleagues but you can rest assured your name and more importantly your company’s name has been mentioned by me and my colleagues repeatedly, and mostly not in the nicest of terms. Before I get ahead of myself let me introduce me and my family. Me and my partner (Kate) have lived in Brundall for years renting a property just round the corner from your new development (The Pastures). As our property is rented we’ve had years of fun and games with the landlord of the property trying to arrange repairs and simple stuff like making sure the boiler works in the winter. Making it a bit of a pain to live in, but this doesn’t concern you.
What does concern you is the fact that when we saw the big adverts online and in the local press about a new housing development being placed in Brundall we wanted to make sure our name was on the list for a property. So we got on your email distribution list for updates, queued for the first day of the sales office opening (When all it involved was a small portakabin sat on a muddy field) and basically set up camp outside the sales office. When we viewed the designs for the properties we settled on one of the four bedroom homes (The Castle) and paid our £500 deposit in February 2014 with a commitment from Persimmon that we’d be in our shiny new home by July 2014. I’m sure you’ve moved home yourself Mr Fairburn so as you can imagine this was an exciting time for our little family as we started planning things like furnishing and extras from your (expensive) catalogue. Heck I even popped the question to Kate during the run up to July, everything was going great. Can you see the but coming yet?
But then nothing. We didn’t hear anything from Persimmon or your sales team for weeks (Actually months), what had been a steady stream of look at this and come in and pay extra for these things suddenly became an empty bag of nothing. You didn’t even want us to pay anymore money for anything from your (expensive) extras catalogue. At first I was pleased, assuming you’d gotten all the blood you were going to get out of this particular stone. However when I eventually got through to the sales office it quickly became clear why you’d gone all shy on us.
The build had been delayed until August. Whilst it wasn’t a particular surprise (I mean delays happen all the time right?, I’m sure when your own home was built that you put up with delays of over 6 months right?) it was a little annoying that it was little old me who had to get the information out of your sales team (Who I’m assuming were far too busy trying to get new customers to sign on the dotted line, rather than worrying about the poor saps who’d already forked out for their deposits). But we persevered, it couldn’t get any worse now could it? (You’ll start to see a pattern in this tale of woe shortly)
So we get into July and the barrage of ‘come look at the extras you could buy’ in the (expensive) extras catalogue started again so I happily assumed everything was okay again. It was during one discussion with your sales team about something along the lines of why you were charging £250 for a mixing tap when I could go and buy one from B&Q for less than £100 when one of the sales team suddenly dropped into the conversation that the build was still on track for the end of September!!!!!!
Having picked myself up off the floor (I’ve perfected this routine since dealing with Persimmon) I asked when the build date had slipped again and why? A pretty simple question to ask I would have assumed. After all I’d assume if you didn’t pick up your 6 figure bonus at the end of another successful year for you and your shareholders you’d wonder why? The answer it seems was something to do with delays, lack of experienced builders and contractors etc. etc. It was at this point that I assumed your sales team had made the assumption I was telepathic and had picked up on their thoughts over the last few weeks and understood we wouldn’t be moving into the house in August. Unfortunately Mr Fairburn I am not telepathic, if I was I’d have made sure I won the Euro Millions a few weeks ago and gone and bought a house from Bovis or Wimpy, better yet I’d have worked out exactly the date we would actually get into the property we’ve been waiting for, for almost a year. So again we were left in the situation of having to replan and all of the other stressful stuff that comes with a house move (I’m sure you’ve been there haven’t you? Or do you have people that do this sort of stuff for you?)
By this point I was getting a little nervous that we’d not get in before Christmas, I jokingly suggested this to the sales team in August. We had a good laugh about it at the time. Little did I know eh?
Anyway I digress. We discussed the delay again and I made it clear that we’d have to give 3 months notice to our horrible landlord who doesn’t like keeping the boiler maintained in the winter that we’d be moving out come October (The new completion date you’d pretty much signed in blood with us after the latest delay) So we merrily went away and gave notice to horrible landlord bloke that we’d (Happily) be moving into a new home in October. With our notice given we went on our way, safe in the knowledge that you guys (However poor the experience had been so far around basic stuff – like picking up the phone to us) couldn’t make anymore mistakes. Hopefully by now you’ll see my continued hope and faith that you’d pull this out of the bag has been seriously abused by Persimmon.
So we get to September, the weather was great down here by the way in September (Meaning no pesky delays to the build – what with you saying the roof trusses would be on in September weather permitting). After driving past our house on the way to work in mid September I noticed that the roof still wasn’t on, I thought I’d give your team a quick call to find out whether it was still on course for end of October for completion. The sales team said they’d check with the build team and get back to me. I waited, and waited. October was a few days away now. I’d grown an impressive beard waiting by the phone for you to return my call, as a bonus I lost 2 stone in weight from not eating, so eager was I to pick up the ringing phone as soon as you had an answer from the sales team asking the build team whether we were still on track (The sales team sit about 150 metres away from the build team on the site). Wondering whether they’d been some sort of natural disaster that had sucked the construction team into one of the big holes you’ve been digging on Cucumber lane for the last 12 months I called again. Again the sales team seem to have assumed I’d gained telepathic abilities in the 2 weeks I’d been waiting by the phone for them to return my call (That’s two weeks worth of euro millions jackpots I could have won!). They assumed I’d been told that the completion date was now looking like mid November due to having found a big power cable running over the property.
I’m not a builder Mr Fairburn, I’ll be completely honest with you. My skills in DIY probably stretch as far as putting up a few shelves and painting the walls when Kate decides she fancies Lilac in the toilet instead of green. I did manage to fix my car the other day after having checked google. I’m wondering whether your construction team need to check google as well? The reason I only half jokingly suggest that is that before you’d moved the very first digger onto the Pastures your team would have noticed these big 5 metre tall structures with long black wires stretched across them. I believe (Although don’t quote me on this) that these things are called ‘Power Lines’ and carry electricity to homes so we can use stuff (Like laptops to write angry emails to CEO’s about rubbish companies). Anyway I digress again. I think the point I’m trying to make is that even with my relatively amateur skills in DIY, I think even little old me would notice when knocking up a structure with two floors to it that the big cables stretching across the site may at some point need to be stuck underground rather than overground in case they delay the building of a house… Just a suggestion
So now we have a bit of a situation Mr Fairburn, many weeks ago we’d given our 3 months notice to Mr horrible landlord (The one that thinks maintaining a property is the job of pixies rather than a responsible landlord, kind of like a house builder that believes customers are telepathic and will pick up on delays without being contacted?). At many points in the relationship we’ve had with Persimmon it seems like its been some sort of Pavlov type experiment in how often you can get us to pick up the phone to you. I contacted your construction director to point out that unless we could move in by the end of October as you’d stated that we would be homeless. Your director suggested we speak to Mr Horrible Landlord to see if he’d extend our rental agreement (missing the point that we’d rather insert nails into our eyes than stay in our current property any longer than we needed), he also pointed out that there was nothing you could do as a ‘responsible house builder’ (I took that bit from your website). So now facing the situation of being homeless in the run up to Christmas with two young children and added costs of storage we had to go begging to Mr Horrible Landlord to ask if he fancied keeping us in a home for a further two weeks. This wasn’t the end of it though.
In October we got a call from you (Which makes a change from us having to call you). It was a surprise if anything, having long assumed that the customer-company relationship with you involved us having to do all the legwork for you it was a bit of a revelation to find Persimmon picking up the phone to us to give us an update. Anyway, it turns out that your estimate of Mid November had a +/- chance of 150% and that the actual move date would now be Mid December. There are many words I can use to describe my response to this, most of which are probably illegal and certainly not worth repeating on an email to you. Needless to say I was forced to wash my mouth out with soap and water after the call. By now I hope you are starting to see the level of annoyance I currently hold for you and your company.
I used to work as a Project manager, and I can honestly say, hand on heart that if I had managed to screw up an estimate as badly as Persimmon have over the last year that I would have been sacked after the second mistake (Lets be honest everyone is allowed one mistake aren’t they). I’m assuming your project managers must have had the day off in class when it came to producing accurate and reliable estimates? If you fancy I can come and teach them how to do it? Better yet offer me a job as a project manager, because if I can get away with so many mistakes then it sounds like the job for me!
So at the present time in what is probably one of the 3 most stressful situations a couple go through (The others being marriage and divorce – and we’re already doing one of those) Persimmon have managed to drag kicking and screaming a defeat from the jaws of victory. Our current move in date now sits at 19th December (Even though your team finishes on site for Xmas on the 18th). We’ve already had to tell our moving firm 3 different moving dates (I think they think we are just a couple of kids calling them up for a laugh every time we tell them a new date). We’ve also got to move out of our rented property by 16th December at the latest as Mr Horrible landlord is living up to his reputation. So I ask you Mr Fairburn do you really believe that your company is being a ‘responsible house builder’ and that the performance of your various teams has been excellent? Would you for example want to give even a penny to a company that seems so inept that it doesn’t even notice power lines above a property before it starts building up?
I could also mention the fact that we actually visited our house a month ago. And came away with a long list of things that need to be resolved before we even move in. The funniest (I use that term rather than depressing as I’m assuming this is all one big joke being played on us by Persimmon now and that at any point Jeremy Beadle will appear with his mike and wonky arm – except Mr Beadle is sadly departed, although I bet he’d have made a fantastic construction director). For your benefit I’ll list some of the funniest bits here:-
- The Solar panels we had installed. The common perception is that for these to be the most effective they should be facing south on a property so it picks up the full east to west sun. As we live in the northern hemisphere sticking them on the north of the property would mean they’d be over 50% less effective than if they were on the south of the property. Can you guess which side your contractors stuck them? I’ll give you two guesses, chances are someone in your position will only need one though. Needless to say I had to use my google friend again to point out that the best place for them to be situated is south facing. Don’t worry though, it didn’t take me much work to find some evidence of this for your contractors as every single link I found said they need to face south. Anyway they’ve been moved now so all I need to do is add it to the list of cock ups that Persimmon have made so far. That list is pretty long (Possibly as long as this email)
- The loft hatch in the upstairs landing. This ones a good one as I felt like I’d got one over on Persimmon. Throughout our meetings to go through your (expensive) extras catalogue its been made very clear to us that everything needs to be ‘on plan’ when it comes to the build. Otherwise your external assessors won’t sign off the house as complete. So say for example we wanted a cat flap putting in, we’d have to pay for it. Or a TV aerial? We’d have to pay for it. Or maybe carpets from someone else that’s a lot cheaper (We’d have to wait until the house was completed and we had the keys – even though it wouldn’t stop your own approved carpet company laying your more (expensive) carpets before we got the keys. Anyway I’m digressing again. Your builders decided they rather fancied having the loft hatch in the upstairs bathroom. Which is fine as I’m all for empowering your staff to make the correct decisions based on the current situation, which would be fine in this case if you never want to get into the loft with a ladder. As I’ve not yet mastered the art of levitation it seems a bit silly to have a loft hatch in a bathroom, especially when your own plans show it as being on the upstairs landing. I have asked for it to be moved. Although it seems Persimmon are currently in hibernation mode and all forms of communication out to me appear to be off at the present time. (Was it something I said?)
- The garage access door. We paid for this about 9 months ago. Remember I’m not very good at DIY? Well I reckon even I could have made a door in a free standing structure by this point using little more than a ruler and a saw, heck I could probably have stuck up a picture of a 50’s pinup and chiselled away at it with a stone carver tool like the Shawshank Redemption, maybe you could be the warden?. Anyway, it would be good if you wouldn’t mind checking that this has now been done, seen as I’ve asked about ten times for it to be done.
If you are still reading this Mr Fairburn I hope you understand that this email is a true outpouring of my complete annoyance, anger and massive feeling of failure in having ever trusted Persimmon to build a house for us. If I’d paid a couple of grand I’d have walked away and put this down to a bad decision on my part. Unfortunately this is a £240,000 mistake and as such I expect a little bit of recompense on Persimmons part for dragging me and my family through 10 months of hell in 2014. Every single opportunity you’ve had to make good on promises, to apologise and actually mean it, to speak to us and keep us up to date has been a complete shower of the brown stuff. I’d like to ask if the roles were reversed and I was sat reading this email from a customer, how would I feel? How would I feel knowing that my company has so ably managed to fail at every single point of a customer interaction so badly that I’d caused untold amounts of stress and heartache to a family who gave me their money in good faith and to deliver on my promises. I’d be feeling pretty bad about it. I’d probably want to do something to make up for it. But hey, that’s just me?
I doubt you’ll even get this email as it will be sanitised and checked by your ‘executive complaints team’. Its ok, I work in financial services, which are almost as big a bunch of crooks as house builders so I know the deal when it comes to complaining to the CEO of a company. What I’d ask though in the response is that you don’t use the typical sentences apologising for your errors or failings. If you’d really meant those sorts of things I wouldn’t be sat here now writing this novel to you.
I trust the above makes clear my current feelings on your company Mr Fairburn, let us hope this doesn’t go viral and show that when it comes to house building, Persimmon are as reliable as a chocolate teapot on a beach in Tenerife.
Mr Ben Mancini
Plot 56 The Pastures